St. Louis Public Schools Discussion Thread

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^ I know there is a general Board of Aldermen thread but can't find one that would also include other city hall politics, ballot initiatives, etc.... I'll wait a bit to start yet another thread in case someone can point to an existing one.
So, my girlfriend and I are prospective first-time home-buyers, and some of the properties we're looking at are in the city. One in particular that has caught our attention is a charming fixer-upper in Clifton Heights. It has enough bedrooms that we could have a couple kids and still live comfortably in the house. Its price-point is very appealing. We have romantic, perhaps naive visions of rehabbing it room-by-room over a period of years, and living in it long-term.

The issue, of course, is what we'd do about kids' schools.

This thread's pretty old (even though it has recent activity), but I was wondering what people's opinions are right now about the state of the city's school system in 2016. Are there enough charters and magnets that city parents don't need to worry about options when it comes to making sure their kids receive an affordable high-quality education? Do you pretty much have to go the private route? What's going on these days?
^St. Louis is a stronger city than it was a decade or two back. The drive to undermine public schools with charter schools has died down a little. SLPS is getting better. They're still afflicted with massive transportation issues for lack of investment in walkable schools, but I don't think things are that bad. From where I sit, a lot of non-profit institutions have stepped up their game in support of the public schools too.

You don't have kids yet it seems, so I'd keep an eye on the North Campus project.

Everybody knows that this is our biggest problem. Once we get rid of Slay and get a mayor interested in neighborhood development rather than big magic projects, I think we can turn this ship around.
CarexCurator wrote:

You don't have kids yet it seems, so I'd keep an eye on the North Campus project.

Everybody knows that this is our biggest problem. Once we get rid of Slay and get a mayor interested in neighborhood development rather than big magic projects, I think we can turn this ship around.


Sorry, can you please explain this a bit more? No, we do not yet have children. We're not even sure if we want any, but we like to keep our options open.

Also, does anyone have any opinions about or know any parents who have kids at Mason School of Academic and Cultural Literacy? It appears to be the neighborhood elementary school for the house we're considering. Obviously if we could win the applicant lottery and our hypothetical kids could test into Mallinckrodt or Kennard, that would be ideal, but I know it's a bad move to bank on that. Online reviews of Mason seem to be mixed, with most of the positive reviews apparently from parents with kids in the younger grades, meanwhile most of the negative reviews apparently come from parents whose kids have been bullied... but it's hard to tell if that's a problem endemic to the school, or if they just have kids who, for whatever reason, are targets for bullying.

So, anyone know much about Mason?
I think it's almost impossible to have the level of school choice that City residents enjoy


STL residents enjoy this kind of "choice" (inconveniently located magnets, questionable charters, expensive privates, and demographically f***ed nabe schools) because these choices have drained their nabe schools of the quality families necessary for those nabe schools to function as schools. The solution to the problem, as several posters have said above (including myself less recently) is to use the neighborhood schools and be really, really involved in them. Nothing the mayor's office or the superintendent does, is going to change the demographics. That's up to you and your neighbors.
Greatest St. Louis wrote:
CarexCurator wrote:

You don't have kids yet it seems, so I'd keep an eye on the North Campus project.

Everybody knows that this is our biggest problem. Once we get rid of Slay and get a mayor interested in neighborhood development rather than big magic projects, I think we can turn this ship around.


Sorry, can you please explain this a bit more?


There are two things there, so I guess I'll elaborate on both.

The north campus project is a pilot program attempting to follow the model of the Harlem Children's Zone by pairing heavy tutoring with a whole-family approach where parents get a lot of education about being parents. That's all great, but what's more interesting is that the project declared a geographic area and only kids in Antonio French's ward get to join. Outside residents need not apply. It's very neighborhood oriented. All these kids can walk to school. That's important because St. Louis Public has a bus problem. They bus kids everywhere at great expense and some kids spent a lot of time sitting on them. If walking to school becomes a thing city wide and neighborhoods championed the schools around them, the district could save a lot of money and pick up quite a few friends. It's a good project, and I think it's worth watching for a few years to see how it evolves.

On Mayor Slay, the guy is in favor of Catholic schools and charter schools that undermine SLPS. I've never seen any evidence of him supporting public schools. His priorities have never been neighborhood focused. He only pursues expensive silver bullet projects like the Cardinals and Rams stadiums, like CityArchRiver, Northside Regeneration, and so on. If we had a leader more interested in basic services and neighborhood quality of life, I think schools would get a lot more attention. Everyone agrees that St. Louis schools are holding the city back. We need some leadership to improve them.
I recommend checking out this website....

http://stlcityschools.org/
^ that is a nice site.... (I'd like to see it expanded or have a companion site Stlcityfamilies to be even more of a tool).

Greatest, to answer your question, I definitely think that there are enough solid education choices that potential breeders should feel quite comfortable choosing to lay down roots here. As for Mason, I do not have first hand knowledge but I know others who have had kids there and say it's been good for them.

In terms of charters, I am far from a strong supporter, however, I do believe that as a whole they are improving as more accountability has been placed on the institutional sponsors and a number of schools appear to be establishing a solid reputation.
Greatest St. Louis wrote:
So, my girlfriend and I are prospective first-time home-buyers, and some of the properties we're looking at are in the city. One in particular that has caught our attention is a charming fixer-upper in Clifton Heights. It has enough bedrooms that we could have a couple kids and still live comfortably in the house. Its price-point is very appealing. We have romantic, perhaps naive visions of rehabbing it room-by-room over a period of years, and living in it long-term.

The issue, of course, is what we'd do about kids' schools.



Word on the street is that SLPS is going to announce a North City "gifted" magnet elementary school and that it will be dropping testing requirements from 95th percentile to 90th percentile for Kennard, Mallinckrodt, and the new school. As others have alluded, it's a mixed bag for the district overall because of the negative effects on neighborhood schools, but it should make getting a kid into Mallinckrodt or Kennard easier.

I don't know much about Mason, but do know people that speak well of Wilkinson. It wouldn't be too far away and your kids could go there without passing any gifted exams. Several Mallinckrodt families have one kid in Mallinckrodt and one in Wilkinson.
^ Both Wilkinson (in Dogtown) and Stix (in Cortex) are good (lottery; although I think pretty good acceptance for Kindergarten) Early Childhood Centers that feed into the newish Humboldt School in Soulard after Second Grade. Pros and cons to that as there is more movement for the kids.

Interesting word on the street, btw; I hadn't heard that. (My kid gets gifted pull-out instruction at Stix but ages out of there after this year.)
Word on the street is that SLPS is going to announce a North City "gifted" magnet elementary school and that it will be dropping testing requirements from 95th percentile to 90th percentile for Kennard, Mallinckrodt, and the new school. As others have alluded, it's a mixed bag for the district overall because of the negative effects on neighborhood schools, but it should make getting a kid into Mallinckrodt or Kennard easier.


This would make for a very interesting approach to "back dooring" SLPS out of the fragmentation it currently struggles with. I could imagine this incremental approach unwinding over a couple decades until the overall district demographics would support a slow demographic re-integration of the schools - not to exceed an agreed upon sub-20% ratio threshold for students from households living in concentrated poverty or something like that. Very, very interesting. And smart.
Tax increase for the schools coming up on the ballot. http://www.stlamerican.com/news/local_news/article_c1f18dec-e4a1-11e5-beef-3f54a5e5376a.html

If passed, Proposition 1 would increase the operating tax levy for the Saint Louis Public School District by $0.75 – the first such increase in 25 years. That equates to an additional $71.25 per year for the owner of a $50,000 home or $107.25 per year for the owner of a $75,000 home.


This increase would generate an estimated $27.8 million in new revenue each year for the district and charter schools in the city.


Is this the first time charter schools have been coupled to SLPS in the plea for tax $?

The full court press is in place by local politicians to vote yes...assume all those in the spotlight send/sent their kids to SLPS to show their commitment. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Why not vote yes? Other STL'ers, what you say? Remember if you don't live in STL you can't vote on this important stuff.

Schools and crime right?
I might personally be willing to pay an awful lot for this sort of thing, but that seems like a big jump.

Where does that put us relative to the average tax in other rust belt cities? There's a lot of information out there about spending per student, but I feel like that information could be misleading. A lot of drop-outs and no early childhood students would make it seem like a lot more is being spent on each student, while a more effective district that keeps kids in school and engages them earlier in their childhoods would seem to be spending less money per student. Certainly SLPS is not in an exceptional place in this list:
https://ballotpedia.org/Analysis_of_spending_in_America%27s_largest_school_districts
Darlene Green, at the SOHA NA meeting said charter schools would get about $8m. She also said this will fill in the gap now that the segregation lawsuit money is pretty dried up.
dbInSouthCity wrote:
Darlene Green, at the SOHA NA meeting said charter schools would get about $8m. She also said this will fill in the gap now that the segregation lawsuit money is pretty dried up.


Will the .667% desegregation sales tax go away soon? I will vote for the property tax increase regardless, but, if the sales tax is going to remain in place, then it seems pretty disingenuous for the supporters to argue that SLPS has one of the lower tax burdens in the region. No other school district in the state has a sales tax.
Massive population declines in North City mean less schools needed. Per the Post-Dispatch, SLPS is shuttering two neighborhood schools and one magnet affecting the Wells/Goodfellow, Greater Ville and Walnut Park East neighborhoods.

http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/education/two-st-louis-city-schools-recommended-for-closure/article_98005843-4b7e-541a-9dbc-8baebee97c4a.html

Langston and Cote Brilliante are two of 10 city schools that have been struggling with such low enrollment that they were targeted for action in September by St. Louis Public Schools Superintendent Kelvin Adams.


In his analysis of the 10 schools, Adams looked at what percentage of students in the boundaries of each school actually chose to attend that school. Some percentages were as low as 12 percent for Roosevelt and 24 percent for Langston.

“We have an absolutely horrendous percentage of students in that area who attend that particular school,” said Rick Sullivan, president of the special administrative board, at Monday’s board meeting.


Adams recommended closing Langston and Cote Brilliante partly because those schools don’t have large populations living around them.


Adams recommended to the district’s special administrative board Monday night that it keep all the other schools on the list open except for Northwest. He said he is holding off on a recommendation for Northwest after meeting with alumni.


Sounds like this was a sound decision. These schools have nearly zero diversity, were dropping in attendance and the student performance was terrible. Langston scored the worst with only 5.5% proficient on the MAP test, Cote Brilliant was at 25% proficiency and Northwest Academy of Law (a magnet school) was only 33% proficient.

More tough school closing decisions will likely lie ahead for North City and possibly South and Central as populations continue to plummet. My guess is that the Census data in 2020 will not be kind to many neighborhoods.

Source: http://stlcityschools.org/
Fascinating:
When Finnish Teachers Work in America’s Public Schools
There are more restrictions to professional freedom in the United States, and the educators find the school day overly rigid.
https://www.theatlantic.com/education/a ... _page=true
hebeters2 wrote:
Fascinating:
When Finnish Teachers Work in America’s Public Schools
There are more restrictions to professional freedom in the United States, and the educators find the school day overly rigid.
https://www.theatlantic.com/education/a ... _page=true

There are many reasons why the Finnish system won't work in the US, chief among them being that educators in the US are not nearly as professionalized as those in Finland.
And the students/parents in the US are probably not as professional as their counterparts in Finland.
shadrach wrote:
And the students/parents in the US are probably not as professional as their counterparts in Finland.

Well, students/parents are shaped in schools; we could move in that direction long-term if we want.
Today's announcement from Dr. Kelvin Adams:

Dear SLPS Stakeholder -
This morning, the Missouri State Board of Education voted to restore Full Accreditation to Saint Louis Public Schools. This is a vote of confidence in SLPS and the significant improvements we have made over the past nearly 10 years since the District lost its accreditation.

Reaching this milestone has taken hard work and unwavering dedication from the Special Administrative Board and all of our incredible stakeholders—students, staff, families and community partners.

While we do recognize the importance of noting milestones—and this certainly is a significant one—please know we will not truly celebrate until we are confident we are giving our students every opportunity to be successful.

That said, we are extremely proud of our District. Above all else, we believe our students can achieve, and they continue to prove it.
Really nice story in the PD today about Mason Elementary in the Clifton Heights Neighborhood. More of this please!
Out of the nine St. Louis district schools that earned a perfect score from the state last year, Mason was the only one that was a neighborhood school, which takes any students within its attendance boundaries. All the rest were magnet schools, which get to choose which students they admit.
Mason is so popular that it draws families across the city. Half of the school’s students don’t live within the school’s boundaries, but choose to drive to Mason themselves under a district policy that allows city students to attend any neighborhood school, as long as they find transportation and as long as there’s room.
It has an active parent-teacher organization, a partnership with the Center of Creative Arts that integrates arts across curricula and a comfortable neighborhood, where popular restaurants Chris’ Pancake and Dining and Adam’s Smokehouse are down the street.

In addition, the school tends to draw parents who are committed enough to their children’s education that more than half of them provide transportation on their own.
http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/educ ... 39df8.html

What we need more than anything are committed families who demand a safe environment and a functioning system. Usually a small fight can lead to major wins. This is a good example of a principal, staff and families working together to achieve a school they want. Congrats to all involved.
Yup we just had a daughter and when we moved to the city in 2013 we were thinking private school for sure when we had children but Mason has changed that perception for us. Hopefully the schools keep improving overall
Mason is so popular that it draws families across the city. Half of the school’s students don’t live within the school’s boundaries, but choose to drive to Mason themselves under a district policy that allows city students to attend any neighborhood school, as long as they find transportation and as long as there’s room.
So it's not really a "neighborhood" school in the truest sense of the word. Is the goal to maintain its current performance but exclusively serve kids from the surrounding neighborhood?
But the school is gradually becoming one of the city’s more popular schools, so much so that it turned away students for the first time this school year because of a lack of seats. It’s a rare moment where a neighborhood school outcompetes charter and magnet schools in attracting some students.
Do the students who get turned away predominantly end up at any one particular school? That would certainly bode well for the district. Hopefully the Mason model is being used elsewhere.

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